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Trauma-Informed Classrooms: Educator Self-Care

Working in a school is hard. It doesn’t matter if you work in a suburban, urban, or rural area. It doesn’t matter if you work with 5 year-olds on building empathy, teach 11 year-olds about symbiosis, coach teachers in aligning curriculum, or help high school seniors choose their postsecondary pathways. It is hard work. From the cacophony of lockers closing at dismissal, to the challenge of getting 25 sets of 8 year-old eyes looking at you in synchrony, schools are a special kind of organized chaos. And while there is not a teacher, administrator, counselor, or other staff among us that doesn’t feel it can also be affirming, enriching, motivating, and energizing at times, burnout among school professionals is real and pervasive, especially when it comes to educating our students with the deepest trauma histories.  

Turnover among teachers across the profession is high at baseline, but is 50% higher in Title 1 schools, 70% higher in schools where there are the highest concentrations of students of color, and higher for special education teachers. Similarly, among school administrators, the rate of turnover is significantly higher in schools and districts that serve low-income students, students of color, and low-performing students. While students with trauma histories can and do exist in any school system, teacher and administrative turnover appears to be highest in districts serving a higher population of students with traumatic experiences.   

Although there are many systemic changes that should occur within education widely to address burnout among school professionals (teacher and administrator preparation, ongoing professional development and training, school finances, etc.) one of the simple steps that school professionals can do to help themselves (and their students) is to create a self-care plan prior to the beginning of the school year.   

An appropriate self-care/support plan involves physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, relational, and professional components. For each of the components, identify ways that you feel most at balance. The popularized notion of self-care involves indulgence, but appropriate, sustainable self-care is about making sure that each component of your holistic health is at balance. And though having a self-care plan may not make working in a school any less chaotic or taxing, it will add an additional protective layer to amplify the positive experiences and enable you to serve students from a place of wellness. 

For a good self-care plan, see:

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